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Third Parties in a Fractured Democracy

 

Things may be shaping up nicely for Ralph Nader, who could very soon receive an unlikely endorsement from the Ross Perot founded Texas Reform Party.

This may prove to be a huge victory for Nader’s solo candidacy, as the support from the conservative Reformers could help him gain ballot access for the upcoming November election.

As you well know, Texas is not renowned for its democratic virtues or integrity (remember Tom Delay’s legislative redistricting?). And now Nader faces numerous hurdles as he attempts to get his name on the state’s ballot. Texas requires over 64,000 signatures by its May 10th deadline, and nobody who cast a vote in its presidential primary can sign his petition. But that’s where the Reform Party may lend a helping hand.

Un-registered Third Parties are required to garner only 45,540, with a slightly later deadline of May 24th. Independents are not currently recognized as a Third Party, and in Texas only Democrats and Republicans are reserved special access to the state’s ballot.

Nader would of course openly embrace the Reform Party’s support, but claims he is not seeking it out. And now the Green Party is actively debating whether or not to endorse the consumer advocate during its National Convention in Milwaukee Wisconsin in June. With no high profile candidate of their own, and a ridiculously late start, many Greens feel throwing some weight behind Nader could be their most resourceful option.

The Greens and the Reform Party’s added funds could shove Democratic loyalists, who continue to wrongly blame Nader for their 2000 defeat, into the emotional deep-end.

A poll released by the Associated Press on March 4th showed Nader coming in at a strong 6%, with Kerry and Bush in a virtual tie. However, we all know the popular vote doesn’t mean as much as we’d like, as it’s the Electoral College that really counts.

This could mean good things for the Nader camp, as the alienated classes of American voters could unify behind his candidacy. Such an alliance could force the Republicrat controlled Federal Election Commission to allow Nader to pass through the locked doors of the televised Presidential debates. If this does happen, one can expect that the “Nobody But Kerry” crowd will chastise such an invitation wholeheartedly_for they won’t care to hear the real deal about their beloved Bush slayer, John Kerry. The good liberals will claim that including Nader would be far too much for our democracy to handle.

With that said, a never before seen progressive loathing has set in across the US, and it is split right in two. Faction Number One utterly detests Nader, and anyone for that matter, who dares stand up to the Democratic Party. If said person does raise a few qualms, they are typically labeled as a maniacal egotist, or worse yet, a Republican plant. And then there is progressive faction Number Two, which loathes not only Bush, but also the broken system that continues to fail Americans year after year.

This group sees Bush not as the embodiment of all that is evil, but as a product of a fractured democracy that’s been on its last leg for too long.

Sure Nader’s run could sift vital resources away from grassroots activism, and waste it on the “lose-lose” electoral game. It is also true that Nader isn’t beholden to any progressive ideology but his own. However, at least we can conclude that Nader is not in the back pockets of the power elites like Kerry and Bush.

Democracy is for everyone. And if liberals and progressives do decide to hold their nose and pull the lever for John Kerry, they better be able to consciously handle the ramifications of their pragmatic choice if he’s victorious. Here is a short list for which they’ll need redemption:

* A continued US endorsement of Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian territories.

* A US supported occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan.

* A continued adherence to neoliberal policies throughout the free market world.

* An American health care system controlled and run by private corporations.

* An increase in the level of income disparity among rich and poor citizens in the US.

* And an almost exponential decline of the natural environment and endangered species of North America. And much much more.

It is true that Ralph Nader may not be the answer to all that ails us, but he is at this moment the only Presidential candidate willing to challenge the status quo we call American politics. A vote for John Kerry may amount to a vote against a vile Bush administration, but it is also a vote cast in support of a degraded structure that continues to ignore the majority of the American people.

Perhaps the Green and Reform Parties are on to something, and their support of Nader’s candidacy could be done more in protest than solidarity.

Regardless it would be wise for us to realize that Kerry is part of the problem, not the solution.

JOSH FRANK can be reached at: frank_joshua@hotmail.com

 

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JOSHUA FRANK is managing editor of CounterPunch. His most recent book is Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, co-edited with Jeffrey St. Clair and published by AK Press. He can be reached at joshua@counterpunch.org. You can troll him on Twitter @joshua__frank

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